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Below are RotoBaller's Week 12 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 12 of the NFL and fantasy football season.

Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver wire pickups to improve your lineups, and to decide which defenses to start, sit, target, avoid or stream for Week 12. Starting the right defense every week can be a difference-maker. Below we have broken out our defense rankings into tiers with analysis on each matchup. Some of these Week 12 defenses have good matchups and are not widely owned, representing fantasy scoring opportunities if they are available on your league's waiver wire for a Week 12 pickup or add. Good luck in Week 12 RotoBallers!

New for this year: Confidence Rating - since every league's DST scoring is different, projections don't make a ton of sense. The confidence rating is a guideline for how much more I like one team over another instead of a straight point projection. A zero means "do not start", then the confidence rises from there. Initial rankings do not factor in Monday Night Football stats. Ranks may be re-evaluated after that game.

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Week 12 Defenses To Start & Stream: Tiers & Rankings

I typically don't recommend rostering two DSTs, but due to popular demand, at the end of the article, I list a few DSTs that will be my top streaming options (i.e., widely available) for NEXT week, so they may be worth adding now before they become hot pickups.

Teams on bye: Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams

 

Tier 1 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
1 1 Chicago Bears @ DET 14.15
2 1 Baltimore Ravens vs. OAK 13.65
3 1 Los Angeles Chargers vs. ARI 13.1
4 1 Houston Texans vs. TEN 12.55

Boy howdy, there are a lot of great DST options out there this week. First and foremost will be the Bears, as they have been most weeks this season. This DST has put up 12+ fantasy points (ESPN standard scoring) in seven of their 10 outings this season, and now they've got a Thanksgiving date with a Lions offense that looks like they'll be without both Kerryon Johnson and Marvin Jones. Matthew Stafford will be looking Kenny Golladay's way early and often, but as good as Babytron is that won't be enough to slow down Khalil Mack and the Bears pass rush. This one might get ugly.

The Ravens are coming off a somewhat disappointing outing against the Bengals in which they managed just one sack and no turnovers. I fully expect them to bounce back against the godawful Raiders offense that just lost their new WR1 (I guess?) in Brandon LaFell for the season. Doug Martin is the only one who seems able to move the ball for the Raiders, and he's dealing with an ankle injury at the moment. Just way too much to like here for the Ravens.

The Chargers have been on a tear in recent weeks, tallying double-digit fantasy points in four of their last six games--and all of that WITHOUT Joey Bosa. Bosa is back in action and should help lead the Chargers in a beatdown over poor Josh Rosen and the Arizona Cardinals. David Johnson's resurgence poses a bit of a threat to the Chargers who are leaky against the run (4.6 YPC allowed), but honestly, you could change out any of the top three DSTs here, and I wouldn't fight you.

Oh yeah, and the Texans are still crushing it. They boast the fifth-most sacks and the sixth-most takeaways heading into Week 12, and while the Titans have certainly improved on offense over the last month or so, they don't have enough to overcome the fearsome Texans pass rush. The Titans have already yielded 33 sacks this year, and J.J. Watt and company will add at least three to that total in addition to adding to their takeaway total.

 

Tier 2 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
5 2 Jacksonville Jaguars @ BUF 10.55
6 2 Dallas Cowboys vs. WAS 10.15
7 2 Tennessee Titans @ HOU 9.75
8 2 Pittsburgh Steelers @ DEN 8.45
9 2 Washington Redskins @ DAL 8.2

Jaguars could probably find their way into the top tier, but to be honest, I think they're going to struggle to get the turnovers necessary to jump into the elite options. Josh Allen will be back under center for the Bills, and their season goal is going to be getting him through the year at near-full health. Expect ultra-conservative game-planning and minimal opportunities for interceptions--that certainly isn't to say that Allen won't STILL turn the ball over a couple of times, and the Bills offensive line still hemorrhages sacks. Huge fan of the Jags this week, one of the safer floors in the league for sure--just lacking the upside of the teams above them.

Speaking of hemorrhaging sacks, the Dallas Cowboys get to host the Redskins on Thanksgiving, who just allowed five sacks to the Texans last week. The losses of guards Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff were absolute backbreakers for this offense, and I expect the Cowboys, who already are tied for ninth in the NFL in sacks (28) to decimate this patchwork offensive line. On top of that, it'll be Colt McCoy under center for the Redskins after Alex Smith's season was ended by a gruesome leg injury. My only fear with the Cowboys this week is that I'm underrating them.

The Steelers DST has quietly been one of the better options for fantasy, as they've got six games this year with eight or more fantasy points. I think they make it seven against the Broncos, especially considering they've put up 11 sacks in their last two games combined and currently lead the NFL with a whopping 37. Case Keenum also has 10 interceptions on the season, so there's turnover upside for the Steelers as well.

 

Tier 3 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
10 3 New England Patriots @ NYJ 7.45
11 3 Buffalo Bills vs. JAC 6.95
12 3 Indianapolis Colts vs. MIA 6.25
13 3 Cleveland Browns @ CIN 5.5
14 3 Philadelphia Eagles vs. NYG 5.15

The Patriots DST has been pretty dependent on defensive touchdowns this season for fantasy relevance--they've exceeded double-digits in fantasy points just three times this season, and only once without scoring a defensive TD. They just don't have the personnel to force turnovers and rack up sacks. With that said, they don't need a ton of help against the Jets, who will be starting either the NFL's leader in interceptions in Sam Darnold (unlikely) or they'll start journeyman Josh McCown who was just embarrassed by the Bills before the Jets' Week 11 bye. The Pats should take this one handily, and with the Jets in catch-up mode, there's potential for fantasy scoring.

How about those Bills, huh? Can't even tank a season properly--gotta pop off with huge wins every now and then just to keep things interesting. They could be in for another good outing against the Jaguars, whose season is more or less lost and could be making a mid-game QB switch again, because Blake Bortles is always one quarter away from a FULL-ON BORTLING. The Bills actually rank 10th in the NFL in takeaways and generate a decent amount of pressure, so they make for a good, cheap streaming option this week.

The Eagles look positively lost on offense, and they're coming off of one of the most devastating losses the franchise has suffered at the hands of the Saints. You have to fade them against good offenses, and while Odell Beckham, Jr. and Saquon Barkley are elite-level talents, Eli Manning keeps the Eagles in the streaming conversation. He hasn't been the interception machine we've seen in years past, and with the rest of the Giants offense relatively healthy the upside is limited.

 

Tier 4 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
15 4 Detroit Lions vs. CHI 4.75
16 4 New Orleans Saints vs. ATL 4.2
17 4 Cincinnati Bengals vs. CLE 3.65
18 4 Seattle Seahawks @ CAR 3.4
19 4 Green Bay Packers @ MIN 3.25
20 4 Minnesota Vikings vs. GB 3.15

The Lions are on the back end of the streaming conversation going up against Mitch Trubisky and the Bears on Thanksgiving--Trubisky has thrown nine interceptions this year and the Lions are tied for ninth in sacks this year with 29, so there's an outside chance at some DST scoring here. However, Trubisky's explosive potential scares me against any middling DST, which is exactly what the Lions are. I'm passing on them if I'm able to.

You can't love the Saints DST in most matchups, and this one against the Falcons is no exception. They simply give up too much through the air--they're 27th in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed. Marshon Lattimore is a beast, but he's a mere mortal next to Julio Jones. However, I wouldn't write them off entirely--they've put up double-digits in fantasy points in three of their last four games, and they boast the second-best run defense in the NFL. I'm not suggesting you start them in anything but the deepest of leagues, but I'll have an eye on this game to see how the defense performs.

 

Tier 5 Defenses

Rank Tier DST Opponent Confidence Rating
21 5 Carolina Panthers vs. SEA 2.95
22 5 Denver Broncos vs. PIT 2.8
23 5 New York Giants @ PHI 2.65
24 5 Miami Dolphins @ IND 2.3
25 5 San Francisco 49ers @ TB 2.25
26 5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. SF 1.75
27 5 Arizona Cardinals @ LAC 1.25
28 5 New York Jets vs. NE 1.1

 

Looking Ahead to Week 13...

  • Tennessee Titans (vs. NYJ)
  • Kansas City Chiefs (@ OAK)
  • Miami Dolphins (vs. BUF)
  • Seattle Seahawks (vs. SF)

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